Sore Losers

I don’t know what happened, but it seems like too many people are taking sportsmanship too far.

Take the case of the Gloucester Dragons Recreational Soccer program in Ottawa, Canada. The group created a ridiculous rule that any team winning a game by more than five goals will actually lose by default. That’s right--the winner will lose the game. How crazy is that? The rule was put in place in an effort to foster sportsmanship in the 3,000-player league, but those behind the decision are taking lots of heat for it--and why shouldn’t they? Players and parents are almost unanimous in their hatred of the rule, too. One parent said, “I couldn’t find anywhere in the world, even in a communist country, where that rule is enforced.”

Backward Approach

This demonstrates clearly why many people just can’t see the “forest for the trees” when it comes to organized youth sports. In their efforts to do what they think is best for young athletes, they are actually doing a greater disservice.

What bothers me about parents’ perceptions of kids’ sports is that it’s often about their kids being the hero or making the final goal to win the game or making the All-Star team.

Sports are about so much more than that.

Sports provide the opportunity for a youngster to learn and gain valuable life skills that come into play on a daily basis. And that happens through competition.

For example, if children learn at a young and impressionable age that cheating is acceptable in sports, then they may think it’s OK to carry that over to school and cheat on tests. If they don’t have to play by the rules of the game when they are young, they may ignore some things their boss tells them to do at a job later in life.

One of the most important lessons in youth sports is to not give up--ever. That’s when it’s time to buckle down and play one’s heart out, because in life when things are not going well and one chooses to quit, life can become a disaster.

When The Chips Are Down

The absurd rule described above tells kids that when the other team is up by five goals, the losing team should merely sit back and not try, and win by default.

That’s like saying to a child, “I want you to do your homework every night this week, but if you don’t, you’ll still get to go to the movies this weekend.”

Now how preposterous is that?

The final crazy point about this rule is that it handcuffs the team that has the five-goal lead because what child on that team wants to score the goal that is going to penalize his or her own team? Where’s the incentive for a child to try his or her best?

The director of the club, quoted in a newspaper article, states that the league is simply trying to make the game fair and that the new rule will eventually be replaced by a pre-season skill assessment to make fair teams.

That change can’t happen soon enough.

I have one other question: Who elected these people to run the league?

Fred Engh is founder and CEO of the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS) in West Palm Beach, Fla., which has been advocating positive and safe sports for children since 1981. He is also the author of Why Johnny Hates Sports, which is available on He can be reached via e-mail at